Relief for construction as emergency meeting heals Gulf states’ rift

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain have re-established diplomatic relations with Qatar after severing them in March in a row over Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The announcement from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on 16 November came after a secret meeting in Riyadh to try to settle the dispute before the GCC’s annual meeting in Doha next month. 

It will be good news for construction and design firms active in the Gulf region who felt caught between the booming markets of Qatar and the UAE, and it will rekindle hopes for ambitious regional infrastructure schemes. 

After the meeting, the GCC leaders, including the Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim (pictured), issued a statement promising "the opening of a new page that will present a strong base, especially in light of the sensitive circumstances the region is undergoing. Based on this, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have decided to return their ambassadors to Doha".  

The statement also confirmed that the annual meeting would take place on 9 and 10 December in Doha. 

The dispute with Qatar was reportedly led by the UAE, which took the strongest line against the Brotherhood, and also the uncensored reporting of the Al Jazeera media group, which is based in Doha.  

Saudi Arabia and Bahrain supported Abu Dhabi’s position, Oman largely ignored the dispute and Kuwait took the role of peacemaker – the meeting was reportedly the result of Kuwaiti diplomacy.  

There was concern among construction companies that wanted to work in both Qatar and the UAE over whether they would face commercial pressure from one country over their activities in the other, particularly over such matters as the siting of headquarters.  

There were also concerns over the chilling effect that the dispute might have on joint infrastructure plans such as the Qatar-Bahrain causeway, and co-operation over the GCC rail network.  

There was more good news for Qatar last week when Fifa cleared it of corruption allegations, which might have resulted in it losing the 2022 World Cup.  

However concerns remain over the treatment and legal protections enjoyed by migrant workers. Human Rights Watch yesterday asked the World Athletics Council to obtain "iron-clad guarantees" that Qatar will enforce better terms and conditions as a condition for allowing the emirate to host the 2019 World Athletics Championship.  

Photograph: Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the emir of Qatar, once more friends with the other Gulf states (Source: Welcome Qatar)

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